Grand Imam’s Speech at the 7th Congress of World and Traditional Religions, in Kazakhstan
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and peace and blessings be with our Master, Muhammad, and with his family and Companions
Mr. President, Kassem-Jomart Tokayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan!
Religious scholars and leaders!
May Allah’s Peace, Mercy and Blessings be with you!
Thanks very much, Mr. President, for the kind invitation to me to participate in this very important conference, which is being held today in your good and blessed country. We ask Almighty Allah to make it a considerable addition on the path of human fraternity, and coexistence, as well as peace that the world lacks today. Now wonder the world is aspiring for peace the way a sick person wishes for a cure that ends pain and suffering.
No doubt the congress theme, “The Role of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Spiritual and Social Development in the Post-Covid-19 Period," is quite pertinent. It is the main topic of discussion among peoples, in the east and west, who view it as a lifeline that could deliver them from a prevalent doom. This is especially the case as the world is still recovering from the consequences of Covid-19, the pandemic that claimed the lives of nearly fifteen million people. However, it was soon hit with other man-made disasters and catastrophes, natural, political and economic. These were man-made, being induced by human excessive selfishness, unbridled ambitions and numbed conscience. Unfortunately, the destructive consequences of these catastrophes have not been confined to wrongdoers alone, as a recompense for their evils, but they rather swept our planet and all that is on it, including humans, animals and plants.
Interestingly, the Glorious Qur’an addressed these two phenomena and their consequences nearly fifteen centuries ago. It referred to human adverse intervention on earth and the detrimental consequences incurred: “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what people’s hands have done. So, He (Allah) will make them taste a part of [the consequence of] what they have done, so that they might return [to righteousness].” (Qur’an, 30: 41) Regarding the adverse consequences incurred, it reads, “And beware of discord which does not afflict the wrongdoers among you exclusively; and know that Allah is severe in retribution.” (Qur’an, 8: 25)
I believe there is hardly the need to remind you of the fear and terror that humanity is now suffering due to sudden climate change, represented in high temperature, forest wildfires, sea-level rise, increased risk of flooding and erosion around the coasts, rivers drying up, living organisms death, energy crisis, not to mention many other crises that we are witnessing day and night. Adding to these crises, we have been afflicted with condescending political practices disturbed the pillars of international economy and hit both rich and poor countries in an unforeseen crisis. This has entailed severe affliction that extended to people’s daily sustenance, of food and drink, besides the frightening, killing and displacing of safe people.
No need to remind you of all that, since it is a lived reality, which is denied only by the affluent, the negligent and liars. I would only like to remind you that these crises are the product of human civilization, being a direct consequence of intentional human arrogance and carelessness about others. Troubled humanity would have never committed these crimes were it not for their daring violation of sanctities in an unprecedented manner over the history of civilization. Regrettably, religion and moral laws and teachings emanating from it to guide the course of civilizations come at the forefront of these violated sanctities. Our contemporary civilization cast religion aside, replacing it with another cult based on infidelity and atheism, and their associated immorality and vice, on individualism, selfishness, egoism, profligacy, hedonism, and connecting intellectual freedom to sexual freedom, and market economy. Drawing on market economy and consumerism, planned campaigns are launched to induce the youth to discredit the family institution and consider marriage, in the way acknowledged since the beginning of humanity, as a delusion that does not befit the new generations. These campaigns instigate the youth to free themselves from marriage and its fetters imposed by religions and human traditions.
Accordingly, they claim, a woman should not be ashamed of lesbian marriage or polyandry. Likewise, they allege, a man should behave in the same manner. These calls brazenly offer new alternatives that involve stooping to even below the level of beasts, with no regard at all to natural human instincts and sound reason.
You may agree with me that scientific and philosophical progress and technical and social development, as major achievements of our modern civilization, can no longer stop this moral and human decline. You may also agree that enlightenment philosophers lost their bet when they asserted that scientific and technical progress is “sufficient to drive the world to fairly stick to the path of civility.” An 18th century philosopher even claimed that “as much as the reach of civilization extends, we will witness the end of wars, rather the end of slavery and misery”.
We admit that, in the last two centuries, Western civilization has made massive leaps and tremendous practical achievements for humanity, in the fields of science, industry, medicine, education, art, culture, transportation and communications, space sciences, etc. However, modern humanity’s spiritual decline, lack of morality, and premeditated mockery of the messages of heaven have emptied this civilization of any genuine value.
Hence, dear attendees, a pivotal role in confronting this civilizational downfall lies primarily with us, religious scholars. This role is represented in reviving the messages of heaven, and promoting the plentiful teachings, morals, and virtues in these messages. They constitute ammunition along the path of human reform and spiritual resurrection. I know that substantial obstacles may prevent us from carrying out this role properly. The first of these obstacles is the absence of openness or true dialogue among religious scholars themselves, and the making of permanent peace among them, before asking others to do so. It is true that you cannot get blood out from a turnip. Indeed, peace among peoples is a fruit of peace among religions, and religious fraternity is the drive for universal human fraternity. Sure enough, a corrupt tree cannot possibly bring forth good fruits. So, a good start, in my opinion, is to encourage such sense of fraternity among religious scholars and leaders, since they are the most entitled to diagnose moral and social illnesses and show how religions treat them. We should feel sure that the present threat does not spring from different religions, as much as it springs from atheism and its generated philosophies that glorify mammonism and flout religions as sheer frivolity and nonsense.
I would like to conclude with two points,
First, when I advocate the priority of peace-making among religious scholars and figures, I don’t mean at all merging religions in one religion. Such a call cannot be accepted by any sane person or any believer in any religion. I believe that the idea of merging religions in one is destructive to all religions, disturbing to their roots, and – at best – an unimaginable fantasy that is far from reality. Almighty Allah has assigned a law and a method for each of us. Rather, I’m advocating hard work towards promoting common values in religions, on top of which is civilizational acquaintance, mutual respect and coexistence.
Second, I would like to seize the opportunity of having different religious scholars and figures present in this congress to invite you for a special meeting to discuss, in complete openness, their duties and the duties of leading politicians and economists towards these moral and natural crises. It is agreed that these crises are now threatening the future of the entire humanity. That is why I believe it would not be difficult for religious leaders in the East and West to make this meeting happen. The example of the Human Fraternity Document may encourage us to do so, knowing that Allah Almighty has guided us to draft it as the first Muslim-Christian humanitarian pact in modern history. It underpins the theory embraced and advocated by Al-Azhar, that any serious meeting between religious figures can morph into a lifeline for human civilization, especially when the hurricanes of evil attempt to shake its foundations or uproot it.
Thanks for your kind attention!
May Allah’s Peace, Mercy and Blessing be with you!